Bakers Journal

The Final Proof: October 2011

September 20, 2011
By Jane Dummer RD

You can tailor and expand your product lines to help serve the growing number of people afflicted with diabetes

You can tailor and expand your product lines to help serve the growing number of people afflicted with diabetes

Today, more than nine million Canadians live with diabetes or prediabetes (impaired glucose tolerance). An estimated one million people are undiagnosed. Out of the 2.7 million Canadians with diagnosed diabetes, 90 per cent (2.4 million) are type 2. Carolyn Gall Casey, director of professional education for the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA), explains that the rates are increasing among children and youth. She says diabetes cost the Canadian health-care system and economy $11.7 billion in 2010 and that figure will rise to $16 billion by 2020. To date there is no proven way to prevent type 1 diabetes; in contrast, Gall Casey estimates that more than 50 per cent of type 2 diabetes could be prevented or delayed with healthier eating and increased physical activity. The CDA’s website offers a variety of nutrition resources, from the Just the Basics Portion Guide to carbohydrate counting and glycemic index information.

People living with diabetes (and their family and friends) understand the positive effects of healthy, low-glycemic index foods on blood glucose stability and are seeking out a variety of bread and baked products that meet their requirements.


“As bakeries are developing new recipe selections, in addition to the white and whole wheat base, we are observing more glycemic index testing with bread products containing whole grains, sprouted grains, pulse flours, sourdough, flax, salba seeds and chia,” explains Alexandra L. Jenkins, PhD, RD and director of research for Glycemic Index Laboratories in Toronto. Dr. Jenkins is a longtime volunteer for the Canadian Diabetes Association within her role as the senior research associate at the Risk Factor Modification Centre at St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto.

“The health benefits of making accurate, nutritional choices that attenuate your blood glucose levels based on information, such as the glycemic index rating, are far-reaching,” she says. Dr. Jenkins will be presenting “Are All Fibres Created Equal?” at the National Canadian Diabetes Association/Canadian Society of Endocrinology and Metabolism Professional Conference and Annual Meetings in Toronto in late October.

The CDA dietary recommendations include 45 to 60 per cent of the daily calories coming from carbohydrates. In addition to providing consumer education resources, Sharon Zeiler, BSc, MBA, RD and senior manager of diabetes education and nutrition for the CDA, explains that the CDA has been approached by artisan bakers asking for advice about how to incorporate more fibre, sugar substitutes and low glycemic index ingredients into their baked goods. Zeiler suggests that more bakeries are addressing consumer needs through expanding their product lines, and/or shrinking portions. With the rise of diabetes among children and youth, it is important for families to include healthier bread choices for children. Zeiler advises that higher-fibre, less refined breads should be introduced to children often, at a young age, so they can develop the palette for them.

Fourteen years ago, when Doug Romanek bought an existing bakery in Windsor, Ont., he was not a baker nor did he know how his newly acquired business would transform into a specialized company for people with diet-related conditions, including diabetes. Today, Nana’s Bakery’s daily diabetes-friendly offerings include eight varieties of muffins and an assortment of cookies, turnovers, pies and cakes. The ingredient list for the muffins includes whole grain flour (local, if he can source it), flax seeds and oats. The cookies (“Yuckies” are one store favourite) start with whole wheat flour, oats and a special ingredient mixture consisting of dates, raisins, spices and orange juice. Romanek was careful not to give away exact amounts of the mixture, as it is his own proprietary blend. With minimal refined white sugar used in the entire bakery, Nana’s supplies local restaurants and other bakeries with their diabetes-friendly baked goods. Romanek works with another baker in training to create special order diabetic cakes for many birthdays celebrated at local nursing homes in the Windsor area. Romanek has continued his commitment to the diabetic community by partnering with local dietitians and the CDA to provide diabetic cooking classes to groups of 10 to 25.

As type 2 diabetes is often triggered by obesity and inactivity (noting that complications of the disease account for more than 80 per cent of diabetes costs), healthy eating strategies need continued support through consumer awareness, education and a range of accessible nutritious food choices. This is a timely opportunity for bakers to augment their product lines with diabetes-friendly breads and baked alternatives.

Jane Dummer, RD, is a leading dietitian for the Canadian food and nutrition industry. Jane offers services specializing in agri-food, functional foods and food safety. For more information, visit

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